SPIRITUAL HEAD OF THE MUHAMMEDANS 143
century when science has made such progress, to place at the disposal of its students the same sources of learning."
"Things are somewhat better than a century ago, when Edward Lane reported that *the Muslims are very averse from giving information on subjects connected with their religion to persons whom they suspect of differing from them in sentiments/ but some of the old reserve still remains. "
It was not easy for a man who was not a Muhanimedan—in the orthodox sense, anyway—to obtain the interview that I desired; but, after some preliminaries, the good offices of mutual friends brought it about at last.
The way took me through the oldest swarming quarter of Cairo, along a wide street that split the bazaar area into two and deposited me at the very doors of the oldest centre of Muslim learning in the world, at the entrance to El Azhar itself. I passed under intertwined arabesques and spacious arches into a large, sunny courtyard, just as hundreds of thousands of'students had passed before me during the long history of the place, students who emerged later to teach the words of the Prophet Muhamined across the Eastern world; to provide authentic interpretations of the holy Quran^ and to keep the flame of Muslim culture ever burning.
When I was ushered into an audience hall and thus into the presence of His Eminence and after we had exchanged the usual greetings, I found time to study this grave-faced man of medium height who enjoys a unique prestige in the world of Muhammedans.
Sheikh el Maraghi, formerly Grand Cadi of the Sudan, has considerable influence not only in religious circles but also among a section of prominent public men.
Under a white turban, I saw a pair of steady, piercing eyes; a straight, regular nose, a small grey moustache, a firm mouth, and a stubble of grey growth on the chin.
The great institution over which His Eminence presided gave its instruction free to thousands of students, future upholders of Muhammed's doctrine, receiving its own funds from endowments and Government grants. The poorer students were fed and lodged free, or else received allowances of money. No longer could the old buildings house them all, so several branches had been built in other districts, and with these extensions had come a change in the teaching itself. Modern scientific studies had been introduced, well-equipped laboratories